- The Union Government’s move to extend the age group category to include all above 18 years from 01st May 2021 is laudatory and deserves appreciation for the thinking behind the measure. The way the global pandemic is ravaging the universe and India in particular, there is no better way than extending the benefits of vaccinations to as many eligible beneficiaries as is possible. Since the second Covid wave is proving to be more infectious than the first wave, the decision to extend the eligibility criteria to cover the younger workforce makes imminent sense. However, there are a few practical issues that need to be addressed though.
- Blaming the Union Government for anything and everything does not absolve citizens’ responsibilities on the matter one bit. The vaccination drive kick-started in January extending the vaccine benefits to all eligible frontline and health warriors who received a lukewarm response is stating the obvious. Reluctance and continued apprehension for the jab by the intended beneficiaries and even doctors and nursing fraternity proved to be a dampener of sorts. No wonder, the statistics showing the percentage of these categories of people getting vaccinated is not at all encouraging despite concerted efforts at exhorting the eligible to receive jabs.
PC: Promeet Ghosh
- The vaccination drive truly picked up only after people above 45 years were made eligible to receive the jabs. The enthusiasm showed by the elderly people was infectious and the drive indeed did pick up soon after. On the flip side, the availability of the vaccine could not match with the eligible people flocking to receive shots leading to severe shortages of the life-saving vials. Shortages and asking people to visit after checking the availability of the vaccine became a norm. When the dreaded second Covid wave started ravaging the nation, the need to inoculate the younger populace was necessitated as the infection rates amongst them kept raising.
- Hence, the announcement to extend the vaccination benefits to 18 years and above was received with a huge cheer. However, the moot point to ponder over here is whether the authorities are in a position to ensure a steady supply of vaccines to inoculate all those eligible since the large number of people made eligible will witness a monumental response. The answer is a big no. The Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech are not in a position to dramatically scale up the vaccine production as yet. Reports suggest that the SIIs Covishield vaccine has accounted for 90% of the coverage in the country.
PC: Shalini Ojha
- Therefore, there is a definite case to extend the dosing gap from the present 6-8 weeks to 10-12 weeks allowing the vaccine production to scale up incommensurate with the anticipated skyrocketing demand as well as giving credence to the experts’ opinion for enhanced protection owing to the more extended gap for the second dose. Also, stockpiling of vaccines could be achieved with this move without any palpable dangers to the life of elderly people already in receipt of the first dose. Most hearteningly, studies indicate lower fatalities even among those who have just received one dose.
- A case in point is Mumbai, where the lower death toll among the elderly having received at least one jab signifies that a dose is better than none at all. Instead of unyielding knee-jerk reactions mainly as an afterthought, the authorities should envisage a clearly thought out strategy to ensure the benefits of the Covishield vaccine reaches maximum beneficiaries by extending the dosing gap to 10-12 weeks. This will eventually prove to be a win-win strategy for all of us in our war against the virus menace.